Southern Re-look on a Sunny Day

           After a delayed but still cold, short, and rainy Spring (which is still spilling into Summer), we finally get our first warm, dry, sunny day of the season. So it’s no shock to have seen the Downtown Minneapolis streets packed with people vying in lane for lunch on the Street, provided by the many Trucks also out celebrating this beautiful occasion.

            Of the many, to my surprise, was that big green alligator Cajun 2 Geaux. I’ve seen their posts of locations AROUND Minneapolis, in various breweries and buildings outside the main drag. However, this was my first time knowing them (outside of maybe their opening weeks) on the Marquette and 2nd St circuit. It’ll be fun to see if they continue this or if it’s just rare circumstance.

             With their recent reply to my review, I’ve found myself obligated to find a time to try them again, not just to finally taste those sweet, sweet southern donuts, but to report on the Red Beans and Rice recipe that they’ve been testing and improving.

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            The Beignets, as expected from the rumors and pictures, are of course amazing, a must-get one anyone’s first visit. To fully inform those who haven’t experienced it yet, the actual texture is a bit of the denser, chewier variety than the traditional (and other restaurant versions), not quite as “light and fluffy,” with a little eggy richness. Covered in powdered sugar, these sweety morsels find one doing the happy dance as they travel the sidewalk. Careful though, they’re hot at first; but don’t wait too long, these should be eaten immediately. Definitely Toe Ring material.

            I wish I had them earlier though, because I SO wanted to get this new item on the menu!

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            Oh yeah, Pecan Praline Bread Pudding. It it’s even half as boozy and brown-sugar rich as a GOOD praline should be, this is a must-get for anyone who’s already had the beignets. Hope it’s on the menu next time I stop by…

            Now, the main event. That oh-so Louisiana dish of Red Beans and Rice. I can somewhat gladly say that it IS better than how it used to be; there IS more of the red bean stew/sauce, the andouille is a slightly better variety, and I do think there’s a little more flavor overall.

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            That said, my opinion and score do not change. There is STILL too much rice in there to call it RBnR (I shortened the name!); as anyone who’s had a good one knows, a TRUE RBnR is like a stew, or a soup. Almost like those crappy “Jambalaya Soups” one sees in random restaurants, that only gives just enough rice to have some in each spoonful… only RBnR is actually good(and thicker). Well, not this one so much…

            And the actual “stew”… in the end, all it really seems to taste like is “red bean sauce” with nothing else. There’s no richness, no complex spice, no kind of molasses or meatyness or anything besides plain red beans. One can bring in the quality andouille as an argument, and though I agree they always add a great aspect to all the best Louisiana dishes, they can’t be used as one’s sole base. More is needed. I commend Cajun for trying, I am very sure and hopeful that they DID try and get more flavor in through the new recipe, but it just does NOT come through.

            As before, all customers should stick with one of the tasty and delicious Po’Boys and ignore their stew/rice dishes. Oh, on that note, it seems they’ve changed their presentation on those. Wasn’t able to snap a pic, but it looks like the sammies are wrapped a little tighter and more snug than before, so they should be a bit easier to eat.

            I could go on and talk about my second Truck stop of the day, but that’s a whole ‘nother post…

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Cajun 2 Geaux

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cajun2geaux.com/  

http://twitter.com/cajun2geauxTim

Main Location: St. Paul

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            Another winter day, another Food Truck, another visit to a local Tap Room; all of which have seemed to combine in a new Symbiotic relationship to our benefit. This snowy night’s pairing du jour came up with Cajun 2 Geaux outside of the Harriet Brewery.

            Looking like a big, lime green, truck-shaped alligator, Cajun 2 Geaux serves up traditional Creole and Cajun Food… TO GO!! (Oh my god a pun!! It’s just so funny!!) From Po Boys to Gumbo, Hush Puppies to Jambalaya, one can find almost any New Orleans staple on their visit. They even served up Crawfish Etouffee to celebrate the Superbowl; though by the time we got there they had run out.

            This wasn’t the only item that disappeared. I really wanted to try their Beignets, but a certain somebody in our group took an extra hour to meet up with us. It just so happens that they ran out of the beignets… HALF an hour before we arrived (I am so holding this over this person’s head for a long time… nobody messes with me and fried dough, especially when it’s covered in a pile of sugar).

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            Either way, we grabbed our available items, headed inside and enjoyed alongside a few of Harriet’s fantastic pulls. Warm light, bright orange walls covered in various local artist paintings and photographs, and a lively man sitting on a corner stage with a harmonica and blues guitar.  Slowly sucking down my Elevator Doppelbock, my foot tapping to the beat as I enjoyed the night, basking in that wondrous blend of food, drink, music, and company. Cajun Truck or no, I certainly suggest one keep their eyes out for Harriet’s various Truck rendezvous.

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Food: 5

             When one takes it upon themselves to review and study traditional New Orleans cuisine, there is a certain additional extra quality that must be taken into account: Soul. Though one can say the same of all regional cuisines, the particular Love and Soul within Cajun cooking stands apart in its unique qualities. Whether this is due to the spices, obsession with roux, or just the depth of their unique ingredients cooked over long time. Cajun and Creole Cuisine has stood noticeably apart from the rest of  its Southern neighbors ever since its conception. It is probably THE most pivotal point in question that makes the food of New Orleans so good and special.

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             And it’s this exact thing that Cajun 2 Geaux lacks, to my utter disappointment. The Red Beans and Rice, as pictured, has little to no of the actual “gravy/sauce” which it typically sits in, and way too much rice. Once mixed, it basically ends up a dry mix of rice, beans, and sausage; of which, though good, is quite unimpressive as far as Andouille is concerned. Jambalaya tastes completely different than it should, using a bland tomato-based stock with no trace of the flavor derived from the fantastic Fond at the bottom of the cooking pan. The only connection to the New Orleans base is the slightly complex Cajun spice in the flavor, which could easily be just from the Andouille. There’s no “richness,” no “depth” of the true Cajun Soul that these rice and stew dishes require.

             Luckily, there is one section of the menu guaranteed to make them worth a visit: the Po’Boys. Bread is nice and soft, sauce and vegetables are tangy, textures crisp, all of it working well with whatever meat they decide to shove inside. We tried the Fried Shrimp, which was nice, good-sized pieces, but lost some of the crispiness among the toppings. All of it mixed into that great, simple sandwich sensation of contrasting parts one looks in a Po’Boy.

             I haven’t had the chance to try them yet, but the beignets do look like they were made well, keeping the traditional fried lightness, and completely covered in powdered sugar as is tradition.          

Holdability: 4

            Somewhat opposite in expectations, the stews and rice dishes are easy to carry while the sandwiches… not so much. Placing in small, plastic deli containers, one can travel and eat with little to no actually effort. On the down side, the one menu item that SHOULD be transportable, and is actually worth buying, requires sitting down. Large, messy, and sliced in two, the Po’Boys have a tendency to spill their numerous contents if not held tightly.

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           Beignets come in a bag, and only offer issue if ordering with something else; which is probably what you’ll end up doing anyways.

Price: 5

          Main price ranges from $6-$9, with a special $12 Oyster Po’Boy called “The Peacemaker.” Certain items are offered in smaller “side” sizes as well, making for some pretty good deals in price. I would score higher, but I certainly don’t feel the quality of many of their dishes match some of the higher prices. Not to mention the fact they are the ONLY Truck out that actually adds tax to the list price after ordering. Sort of disappointing, considering none of the other Trucks need to do it (at least not seemingly, adding it before listing prices and adjusting so one pays a simple flat rate).

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Speed: 8

         Average and reasonable wait.

The TOE: 5

         Going to the site and looking at their menu, one can tell that they aren’t really catering for the concept of “Street Food.” Though they make it portable, stews and rice dishes are still stews and rice dishes. The sandwiches simply lack portability, completely taking down any real feeling of a Food Truck. They stand out on the uniqueness of their cuisine style, but then again many of the actual foods dependant on it doesn’t deliver.

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         Beignets offer a scrumptious saving grace, acting as an almost perfect Toe Ring, standing out as a main focus upon every visit.

                        Tally: 27/50

Final Thoughts

         Certainly a great truck to hit when parked outside a brewery, or in any other event where one can sit down. Avoid any stews and rice dishes, they simply aren’t worth the time or money. Beignets are a must on every visit, and at only $2 it’s a deal.

         Po’Boys should be your main focus, all of them being particularly tasty. If I were to suggest one to try, it would be The Peacemaker: a fried oyster with cheese and bacon. It costs a couple bucks more than the others, but I would be shocked if it wasn’t worth it.

AZ Canteen

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azcanteen.com/

https://twitter.com/AZCanteen

Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul… Other States (Winter Travel)

             Words truly cannot detail just how excited I became upon finding out about this New Creation. My pace quickened, chest tightened, a little drool escaped my lips, and I think my eyes probably dilated like a pig walking into Famous Dave’s.

            There is truly only one way I can express why this had such an effect on me. If you were to have one, only ONE, well-known Chef across the entirety of the U.S. to own and direct a Food Truck, it is Andrew Zimmern. Very few Chefs have been able to engrain themselves into food cultures and Street Food across the entire World as much as Zimmern has. With such a wide experience of enjoying the most abstract and, okay I’ll say it, “Bizarre” foods. Working among the many dishes of the street, there is no one more qualified to understand and offer that pure Cultural feeling and experience that a True Food Truck can create.

Truly he proves this here, creating a menu of unique yet familiar, nostalgic items perfect just for the street. Hamburgers and Grinders are made from specially-found Cabrito Sausage (for those unaware, Cabrito is Goat), Sliders are made from Veal Tongue, and Gumbo is filled with Kramarczuk’s Andouille, Oysters and Crab. For dessert they grabbed Izzy’s own Ice Cream Sandwiches; but the real star of the entire Truck is a special “Dulce de Leche Shaved Ice,” with pound cake.

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            Drinks and Potato Chips are all bought from handmade, artisanal, local and other such sources. Much like every other product they buy for the Truck.

            Currently taking residence in Florida for the winter, AZ really sets themselves onto the Serious Path and Habits that reminisces the Food Truck World. I only hope that they do come back to take up Minnesota Residence once again whence Summer arrives(I’ve come back from the future to write this… and they do, yay!).

            I hear there are plans to make multiple Trucks in the AZCanteen name, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Food: 9.5

           Fun, delicious, a very pivotal experience for the Minnesota Foodie. Cabrito is cooked perfectly, bread for the sandwiches are grilled and crispy; and the local ingredients really shine. The Dulce de Leche Ice is a very unique experience, and perfect for the hot summer day. For my review on the Burger, follow This Link.

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           The only counterpoint I can make is I wish the Gumbo had more sense of the Oysters that it’s highlighting, but a good Gumbo it still is.

Holdability: 7.5

           Individually each item is made for easy Street Eating. However, I find any real experience here is almost impossible to make without getting a cup of Gumbo or Shaved ice alongside one of the sandwiches, leading to fuller hands. On a recent visit, I found the burger to also be a sit-down preferred item.

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Price: 8.5

          Keeping many good, affordable prices, along with a range for the smaller, lower costing items (small soup and shaved ice being an example). The locally sourced, higher quality items and service techniques do show, raising them another dollar or two above other trucks. But nowhere near ridiculous levels.

Speed: 7.5

         Average and expected, while many popular items like the soup and ice come in quicker due to efficiency. The Cabrito Burger DOES take a while to cook on its own, but one can wait it our with Gumbo or Shaved Ice.

The TOE: 10

         AZCanteen may not score the highest within the Trucks that I rate, but believe me when I say that I can’t think of many trucks that Truly embody what it means to be a Food Truck any more than AZ. Andrew Zimmern has taken his wide travels through the world and Translated his love for the Street Food Culture into what we see today.

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         I look forward to going back in the future. Though I do not think they need to change their menu at all, there is a subconscious hope to see them play around with more new, unique things.

Service: +3

         The Chefs behind the register have REALLY good energy and drive behind them, and are extremely willing and able to chat up new customers. Even on my first visit they made everything feel familiar, warm and exciting all at once.

                         Tally: 46/50

Final Thoughts

            Go here, go here now (or at least, soon as Summer comes back). There are two things you absolutely MUST get on the first visit.

            First, either the Cabrito Burger or Grinder; it’s their main, specialty item, and very well done. Second, to go with this, either a small cup of the Gumbo or the Shaved Ice for dessert. Or hey, get both, do a 3-course Street Lunch thingy (only Truck I know where it’s a real possibility and I would also suggest it). If able to, I might suggest getting the cup of Gumbo while waiting for the Cabrito to cook. It makes the wait tasty and fun, and is one less thing to worry about for carrying.

            The one item I would avoid is the Venison Tongue Sliders. Don’t get me wrong, they taste really good, but they’re a little higher in cost and you do NOT get much; only two thin slices per slider. If you have the extra money to spend, definitely give them a try one day.

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            One very rare thing for me to suggest, the side items: I was disappointed to find they don’t make their own. However, the chips they buy come in a plethora of flavors, including Bacon. So if you’re looking for those little pre-made things, AZCanteen has a very good selection, same with their Sodas(but they make their own Hibiscus, so get that).

            Enjoy yourselves fully!